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Johann Nepomuk HUMMEL (1778-1837)
Sonata in E flat, for viola and piano, op.5 no.3 (1798) [20:12]
Arioso, for viola and piano (arrangement from Piano Trio op.83) [4:41]
Potpourri, for viola and orchestra, op.94 (1820) [19:20]
Sonata, for cello (viola) and piano, op.104 (arr. Marcin Murawski) [20:12]
Valse, for viola and piano [2:07]
Marcin Murawski (viola)
Urszula Szyryńska (piano)
Hummel Project Orchestra/Ryszard Handke
rec. Aula Nova, Paderewski Academy of Music, Poznań, Poland, 4-5 May 2009; Prince Bogusław Hall, Pomeranian Dukes' Castle, Poznań, Poland, 24 January 2009 (Potpourri).
ACTE PREALABLE AP0226 [67:26]

Johann Hummel wrote only two works for viola: the early Sonata op.5 no.3 (the first two were for violin), and the mature Potpourri op.94, a quasi-concerto in one movement. Both of these appear - the latter somewhat incongruously, it must be said - in Polish violist Marcin Murawski's programme. He makes up the minutes with his own transcription of Hummel's Cello Sonata op.104 (not no.3, as the track-list claims - this was a group of one) and the short but lovely cantilena-like andante, here titled Arioso, from the Piano Trio no.5, op.83. The booklet errs once more: in his notes Murawski incorrectly states that this movement is from "Trio no.1" (op.12); the confusion presumably arises from the fact that both works are in E major and have a middle movement marked andante. Finally, there is a two-minute Valse, listed as a "bonus track". Murawski does not say where this particular cameo comes from, leaving the reader to guess that he did not know it was going to appear on the disc.
 
The Potpourri, recorded separately, suffers in its two fortissimo sections from slight distortion, but the loss is not critical - in general Acte Préalable's sound quality is bright but good. Murawski regards the Potpourri highly - it is certainly much more inventive, subtle and demanding than the pastiche-style title implies, and he approaches it with panache. He revels in the "controlled madness of virtuosic tempi and technical demands", competently supported by the Hummel Project Orchestra. Perhaps Murawski could now persuade the label's top brass to let him do a series of Hummel's older contemporary Alessandro Rolla's criminally neglected viola concertos.
 
The transcription of Hummel's so-called 'Grande Sonate' works very well for viola. Though by no means an essential item for the repertoire in this form, it does give the Hummel-admiring violist something else with which to instil in audiences a greater appreciation of the composer. Whatever the piece, Murawski himself describes it effectively in the notes and moreover communicates his own considerable admiration for it. Urszula Szyryńska's piano plays a secondary but by no means unimportant role, responding instinctively to the viola's lead. 
In sum, this is an entertaining if not revelatory disc. Still, a transcription of one of the composer's violin sonatas would have made for a more coherent recital - the Potpourri could profitably have been saved for that Rolla project. Incidentally, Murawski's most recent recording for Acte Préalable is something of a treat: an all-viola programme of American composer Michael Kimber's music, 21st-century fare, but very listener-friendly (review).
 
Intriguingly, the Polish-English-German booklet credits include one for "make-up".
 
Byzantion
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